Enlargement Conditionality in the Sphere of Anti-Corruption: Has the EU Learned from its Previous Mistakes?

    • Europe Inside-Out Nice 2016
    • Presentation speakers
      • Liljana Cvetanoska, Centre for European Studies, Department of Politics, University of Sussex, UK


    Despite EU efforts to curb corruption during the accession process of Central and Eastern European countries, controlling corruption still remains a serious problem in the region. Rather than following the narrative that the EU plays a key role, this paper argues (a) that EU anti-corruption conditionality has been mainly limited to the adoption of anti-corruption laws and (b) that its success depends on specific domestic circumstances in candidates. The paper employs documentary analysis and semi-structured elite interviews with national and EU experts on corruption and enlargement. Drawing on theoretical insights from the Europeanization and corruption literature, it argues that while the EU can influence adoption of anti-corruption laws and formal creation of institutions of accountability; effective EU conditionality and sustainable positive changes in controlling corruption are predominantly dependent on case-specific factors. The paper initially analyses the evolution and the effects of the enlargement conditionality in the sphere of anti-corruption by using the Czech Republic, Romania, and Macedonia to compare the 2004 enlargement, the 2007 enlargement and the accession of the Western Balkans. It assesses anti-corruption reforms in the three cases during their EU accession process. These countries are representative cases from different enlargement waves with diverse trajectories regarding controlling corruption. The second part looks at the domestic factors and conditions in each of the cases, to explain the variations in control of corruption among them. Research findings reveal that the effectiveness of EU influence on corruption control is related to both factors on the EU side, as well as to specific domestic conditions and factors in the target countries, such as interest of political elites to join the EU and capacity to address the issue. Findings recommend that the EU should enhance its enlargement conditionality by introducing stricter application of accession criteria regarding corruption, and by sending a clear message that membership is achievable only through continuous and sustained progress in key areas.